Exactly two years ago Cardi B dropped something nearly as major as her debut studio album.
Sure 2018's Invasion of Privacy went multi-multi platinum, earning the artist her first Grammy and a place on both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork's albums of the decade lists. But two months later, she stunned the Internet by confirming that, yes, her fiancé and future baby daddy Offset was actually her husband—and had been for some nine months.
"There are so many moments that I share with the world and there are moments that I want to keep for myself! Getting married was one of those moments!" she tweeted on that June 25 afternoon. "Our relationship was so new breaking up and making up and we had a lot of growing to do but we was so in love we didn't want to lose each other." So they phoned up an Atlanta minister, tidied up their bedroom and exchanged traditional vows, but not rings.
"We found someone to marry us, and she did, just the two of us and my cousin. I said I do, with no dress, no makeup and no ring!" she described, before finishing with this mic drop: "Well now since you lil nosey f--ks know at least ya can stop saying I had a baby out of wedlock."
It was another twist in a relationship that's seen the duo enjoy a first date to the 2017 Super Bowl ("That's a power move!" he crowed to Rolling Stone), spend months denying they were a thing as went from on to off and back again, secretly get married in their bedroom, very publicly get engaged in front of the crowd at Power 99's Powerhouse in Philadelphia, celebrate the July 2018 arrival of daughter Kulture, his fourth child; her first, endure countless rumors, two bouts of infidelity and at least one major split that saw her taking to Instagram in December 2018 to declare "I guess we grew out of love, but we're not together anymore."
A dizzying timeline, it would fell most pairs, but the hip-hop power couple—between them, they lay claim to 11 Grammys nods with one win, seven BET Awards and 13 top ten tracks—are very much still reigning.
"Me and my husband, we prayed on it. We had priests come to us. And we just came to an understanding like, bro, it's really us against the world," the 27-year-old musician told Vogue of scaling their most recent hurdle.
Her placement on the fashion bible's January cover is, in and of itself, an indicator of how far she's come from that "regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx" who gained traction on social media for telling it exactly as she sees with her distinctive voice and bawdy humor. She know her romance with the Migos rapper, 28, may not appear to outsiders as the stuff of rom-coms, but it doesn't make their love story any less real.
The way she sees it, she's just being more honest about their struggles, her trademark bluntness leaving her unable to do anything else.
"My thing is, everybody on social media acts like relationships is perfect," she continued to Vogue. "And that's crazy to me. I'm around so many women, and there's always a woman talking about how she loves her man, but her man is not financially stable, or she has a problem with his mom, or the sex is not as good anymore. Everybody has issues."
Not that she has to justify herself to anyone.
With all due respect to the fans she's been collecting in droves since "Bodak Yellow" hypnotized the nation, "My relationship—my marriage—is not for them," she told People in early 2019 as word spread of her decision to give her man another chance after he'd admitted to "partaking in activity that I shouldn't have been partaking in" for the second time in their nascent marriage.
Nor, she contends, is it anything like the romances they enjoy far from the spotlight's judgmental glare. "People are so quick to be like, 'You should just date somebody else,'" she continued to the mag. "It's like, Honey, I'm not like you—I'm famous. I gotta consider who I'm dating, I gotta make sure people will have me for me. And I have a kid....We are a package. It's not just Cardi, it's Cardi and Kulture."
Which, if you break it down, is her main reason for relenting to Offset's pleas for forgiveness.
"When I was 13, my parents separated, right?" she explained of her Trinidadian-born cashier mother and cab driver father who hails from the Dominican Republic during a February 2019 appearance on Good Morning America. "So I always feel like it's important to have, like, a two-parent household."
It was more or less the same motivation she had for overlooking the "Don't Lose Me" artist's previous cheating scandal. When a 2017 iCloud hack seemed to catch Offset with another woman she tweeted, then deleted, "I'm going to make a decision in my own times with my heart and mind. I don't need to be rushed or be told what to do. It's my life! I belong to me not to the world," adding that while "it's not right" to cheat, "What you want me to do? Go f--k me another n---a? start all over again and get cheated on again? This s--t happens to everyone."
But if she did offer her reasoning, she would have shared just how much she'd meant it when she pledged forever in their Atlanta bedroom. "People that be in marriages for years, when they say till death do us part, they not talking about little arguments like if you leave the fridge open," she justified to Vogue. "That's including everything."
Following her late 2018 split confession, the world saw Offset's months of public groveling, crashing the stage of her Rolling Loud Festival performance with an embarrassing display of apology flowers, filming videos proclaiming "I want to be able to spend the rest of my life with you."
What they didn't see take place between the time Cardi declared to Harper's Bazaar that she'd passed on his offer to do marriage therapy because "there's no counselor or nothing that could make me change my mind," and their statement-making PDA on the Grammys carpet weeks later was her continuous internal struggle.
"I believe in forgiveness. I prayed on it," she explained to Vogue. And, ultimately, she laid down a new set of laws for her guy to adhere to. "He has my back for everything, I have his back for everything, so when you cheat, you're betraying the person that has your back the most. Why would you do that?" she said. "We have come to a clear understanding. For me, monogamy is the only way. I'll beat your ass if you cheat on me."
And in the year since that slip-up, Offset has been heavy on the charm. Going all out last Valentine's Day, he paired diamond jewelry with a flower-filled bath and in September he marked their second wedding anniversary with a montage of their relationship highlights before showering her in heart-shaped diamonds and Birkin bags for her October birthday.
Cardi, in turn, showed her devotion both by brushing off subsequent cheating claims ("Our life has been good, he's not going to play himself like that," she said after Tekashi 6ix9ine's girlfriend accused him of sliding into her DMs) and inking his name on the back of her thigh
"You gotta go through steps and different things so that we can grow," Offset reflected on The Breakfast Club last February. "Not on the TV though, real behind the scenes, getting to know each other, getting to know who you're with and appreciate them all the way around. Because that one mistake made me appreciate her." Now, he told Vogue, they've figured out ways to remain close even when he's in his native Atlanta and she's at her preferred base in New York City. "It's not an easy thing," he admitted. "We both have our own households. But you grow. We're way better now with communication."
Even having put in the work that people are always going on about when it comes to marriage, she knows she still has fans questioning her willingness to dole out extra chances. But, frankly, she's the one living this life and as she put it in one social media video, even with Offset's mistakes, "Motherf--ker's still my best friend."
So, sorry not sorry, haters. "When me and my husband got into our issues—you know, he cheated and everything—and I decided to stay with him and work together with him, a lot of people were so mad at me; a lot of women felt disappointed in me," she allowed to Vogue. "But it's real-life s--t."
And she's nothing if not all the way real.